Seniors lead LOA baseball past Lincoln on senior night

Titans senior designated hitter Hunter Lovelace safely slides into second base to record a steal on senior night. 

PHOTO: Justin Hubbard

By Justin Hubbard

justin@lakeoconeenews.us

 

It was appropriate for Eli Ramsey to hit the game-winning home run during the Lake Oconee Academy baseball game against Lincoln County last Thursday.

Ramsey, the team’s senior catcher, was honored before first pitch as part of the Titan’s first-ever senior night ceremony. He had never before hit a home run at the varsity level, either, so he picked the perfect time to go deep.

LOA trailed 10-9 in the bottom of the fifth before Ramsey connected on a ball and hit it over the outfield fence to give the Titans a decisive, 12-10 edge.

“It was one of those in the sweet spot, a hard-hit ball,” Ramsey said. “I saw it go up. At first, I was thinking, 'pop fly, deep outfield,' and then, as I was running to first, I saw the outfielder stop and I was like, 'Man, that's going over.' I got really excited. It was great.”

Ramsey’s teammates were just as excited for Ramsey’s big fly as they greeted him back to the dugout.

“He set the tone for the team,” fellow senior Devin Mitchell said. “That's exactly what he did: He set the tone for the team from there on out. It was all uphill.”

Mitchell started on the mound and had a solid start going until the Red Devils picked up five runs across the second and third inning after trailing 6-1 after the opening frame.

Despite allowing a few base runners each inning, Mitchell found ways to get outs. In the first inning, a heads-up unassisted double play by Kunj Sukha, also a senior, got Mitchell out of a jam.

In the fourth inning, Mitchell was back at the rubber but he was hit in the rib area by a line drive off the bat of a Lincoln hitter. Mitchell went down for a few moments and exited the game. He said afterward he was OK and just had the breath knocked out of him.

Mitchell allowed five earned runs on four hits and six walks. He was grateful to his teammates for providing run support to help keep the Titans in the game.

“It was amazing,” Mitchell said about getting the ball for his final game at Tucker Park. “I really appreciate my boys coming out here and giving it all they've got, not only for themselves but for the team and for us seniors, for our last home game. I really appreciate it.”

Overall, LOA’s six seniors – Ramsey, Mitchell, Sukha, John Fowler, Hunter Lovelace and Bobby Hatfield –  went a combined 4-for-22 during their last home game. While that isn’t a great batting average (.181), the seniors’ production in other categories was a major reason LOA beat Lincoln.

They collectively drove in six runs and walked six times. Lovelace, the designated hitter, recorded the Titans’ only stolen base of the game.

Fowler, the first baseman, went 1-for-4 with an RBI, which helped jumpstart LOA in the first inning. He said he was happy to share the team’s home field with his fellow seniors one last time and see them all come through in some fashion.

“It was good,” Fowler said. “It felt great because we've been working at it since we were in the seventh or eighth grade. It was great to play with them one more time on this field.”

The program’s first senior class will leave a lot of shoes to fill. The seniors take up six spots on an 11-man roster.

Titans head coach Jeremy Donaldson said losing the seniors will affect more than just the team’s logistics.

“These seniors are the best in the state,” Donaldson said. “These guys are high-character guys, on and off the field. It's going to be tough to replace them, leadership-wise, because they offer so much.”

Those seniors have confidence in the program’s ability to replace them, though. Mitchell went as far to say some of the returning players and incoming players are good enough to receive scholarship offers from college teams.

Fowler agreed that LOA baseball is headed in an upward direction.

“The future is very bright for this team, especially with the middle schoolers we've got coming up,” he said. “They're going to be very strong contenders. I say, eventually, we play for regions, at least, maybe state playoffs at some point.”

The future was on display during last Thursday’s game. Zach Tolleson homered to give LOA an early advantage; later, he replaced Mitchell on the mound and finished the game by allowing only one earned run on three hits. He struck out four batters, too.

Blake Mills, arguably the team’s best hitter, had 14 hits, 10 walks, nine RBIs and two home runs with a .298 season batting average as of Monday. He went 2-for-4 against Lincoln.

They, and the rest of the Titans, will anchor the team while it welcomes in talented prospects from the eighth grade. The future certainly looks promising.

But last Thursday was about the seniors and the foundation they helped lay. Ramsey said his home run put an exclamation point on what was an overall special night for him and the other seniors.

“It's something that we will all remember forever,” he said. “It's a sweet moment when you can say, 'Our last game, we went out there and gave it our all and we did good things.' It was great.”

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